role of cities
SA and the GCR
green initiatives
solar energy
energy efficiency
water and sanitation
mobilising the region
what is the role of cities in promoting a green economy?

Cities now house more than 50% of the world’s population, and consume a significant portion of the world’s resources.


For example, the construction industry – a key driver of growth – is responsible for:

  • 10% of global GDP
  • employs over 100 million people globally
  • uses up to around 50% of global resources
  • uses 45% of global energy
  • uses 40% of water globally
  • uses 70% of all timber products.
In addition, city-regions and countries are starting to come up against ecological resource constraints that prevent ‘business-as-usual’.

For example, water supplies in the Gauteng region are increasingly becoming constrained, as is the ability to absorb waste and supply food.


In the medium to long-term, climate change is likely to have a devastating effect on food and job security unless this issue is addressed in the short-term.

So, we have to change our thinking to achieve sustainable goals by

  • no longer viewing environmental protection as a constraint to economic growth, but as a driver of growth and essential for long-term economic sustainability.1 The alternative is that growth falters as South Africa reaches ecological limits and becomes penalised by the international community for its carbon emissions and related energy intensity.
  • no longer viewing production and consumption as ‘linear’ processes, but using holistic life cycle/circular concepts to think about and design these processes.
  • shifting from capital-focussed investment to strategic investments in knowledge capital and the systems that create innovation.
Dependent on coal for almost 90% of its electricity needs, South Africa is the 12th-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, producing more than 40% of Africa’s fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions  

what benefits do green economics hold for cities and city-regions?

Green economies not only create direct and indirect employment opportunities, they also protect existing jobs by addressing the increasing costs and challenges that undermine traditional economic growth, such as increasing food and energy prices. It will be up to Gauteng as the economic heart of South Africa to drive these goals and create sustainable jobs through the sustainable use of resources and a reduction in carbon intensity.

To achieve these goals, the economic focus needs to be on creating institutions that are able to foster the evolution of new technologies and processes. These institutions are the key to unlocking green potential, by creating skills and programmes that drive a low-carbon agenda.
1 UNESCAP, 'Green Growth at a Glance', 13